Vocal artist Christina Carter released the elusive 'Masque Femine' back in 2008, unleashing a stunning work of sparse and honest songs that bled together in her almost ambient approach to a capella. The record can be seen as one of her attempts to deconstruct what it is for a piece of music to be considered "a song", and it can now be heard on vinyl.
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- Masque Femine by Christina Carter
10/10 Robin Staff review, 12 November 2014
I’ve been waiting a very, very long time for Christina Carter’s masterpiece, ‘Masque Femine’, to make a reappearance. It’s fitting, really, that it’s taken so long: this record is nearly invisible, one in which every vocal pause feels like a great act of disappearance, an extraction of Carter from the universe. With her suffocating vocal whispers, every lingering silence feels like an intimate moment being lost forever. It’s as if Carter has been sitting across the room from us, just before she ceases to exist.
Originally released in 2008, ‘Masque Femine’ remains the most confidently vulnerable record I’ve ever heard, consisting of little more than Carter’s hushed, receding vocal crackle and an occasional acoustic guitar that emphasises vocal acts rather than instrumental ones: fret slides are more important than the melodies made with them, and strums serve as another imperfect, unrestrained voice. ‘Masque Femine’ treats music with the same immediacy as life: it’s a first take. The music is largely a cappella, but that implies fullness and completion -- where we deem the best songs the most perfectly sung ones, Carter is drawn to vocal performance art because it is our intuition. because the voice is the beginning and end of sound. The standards she covers here are reduced to fragments, her voice stopping and starting and only being layered with itself, as if the rest of the world hasn’t caught up with it yet.
‘Masque Femine’ is the kind of suffocating record that we usually need creative distance from: its rawness is terrifying and impossible to share from listener to listener. Carter’s voice is not comfortable: with its painful annunciations and lethargically hummed vowels, it reminds me of the difficult spoken word excursions of Jenny Hval. The difference is that Carter lays them bare -- where an artist like Hval would sabotage her words with noise and allow her listener to admire from afar, as one among many, Carter whispers at you. Occasional folk ballad aside, this record is a vacuum: all that can go into it is the voice. It’s the closest you’ll get to an artist treating song as conversation.
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